(Reuters) - Arsene Wenger believes the Premier League title is “Chelsea’s to lose” and the Arsenal manager is ready to salute Antonio Conte’s men should they surpass the Gunners’ record of 14 consecutive top-flight victories.
Chelsea lie six points clear of the field, nine ahead of fourth-placed Arsenal, and will strengthen their position further if they extend their club record winning streak to 13 by beating Stoke City on Saturday.
”At the moment Chelsea are the super-favourites (for the title),“ Wenger told a news conference on Friday. ”But it is theirs to lose as we say here in England.
“At the moment they have won it but they can still lose it. It’s still a long way to go and so the head-to-head (matches) will have a vital importance.”
If Chelsea win their next three matches against Stoke, Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City they will surpass the record of consecutive top-flight wins set by Wenger’s team stretching across the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons.
“If they do it, it’s absolutely marvellous because nobody expected that,” Wenger said.
“At the start of the season, they had a little bit of a dodgy start, but after, since they’ve changed their system, they are on a run where the confidence plays a big part.”
Records are there to be beaten and if somebody does better than you, you have to acknowledge it and say ‘well done’.”
Wenger’s side were the last to beat Chelsea in the league, thrashing them 3-0 in September, a humbling reverse that prompted Conte to change his formation. They have not looked back since.
“They have addressed their problems well. You have to give credit to Conte to find a solution that has balanced well his team,” Wenger said.
“They bought David Luiz who stabilised their defensive record and I think overall they are the team that has been the most consistent until now.”
Arsenal defender Shkodran Mustafi has recovered from a hamstring injury for the London derby against Crystal Palace but winger Theo Walcott and left back Kieran Gibbs will miss Sunday’s Premier League clash at the Emirates Stadium.
Gibbs injured his knee in Monday’s win over West Bromwich Albion and Walcott remains sidelined with a calf problem.
Wenger provided a positive update on striker Danny Welbeck’s return to fitness following a long-term injury.
“Welbeck is fit and sharp. He is in training and he looks quite good,” Wenger said.
Reporting by Ian Chadband and Shravanth Vijayakumar in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond